Are you a single mom worried about your finances? Here are some solid financial survival tips for single mom success.
When I first became a single mom, among other worries, financial concerns were the top of my list. At the time, I had 2 small kids under age 5 and a part-time job working from home. We live in a rather expensive area of the US and I remember feeling completely overwhelmed, especially regarding my finances.
One thing I realized right away was that I needed to get my finances in order. I read a sound piece of advice saying that all single moms should make serious financial plans and make it a goal to get to a place to be financially independent (not relying on government assistance or child support).
If you need temporary help to survive, accept it, but work toward financial independence. Be prepared and make a plan for yourself and your kids.
I know it’s overwhelming and can seem scary, but take it one step at a time and accept help where and when you need it.
Remember building a castle starts with the first brick.
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Create a Budget
The first thing you need to do it create a budget. It doesn’t have to be fancy but you must know how much money is coming in (income) and how much is going out (expenses).
- Figure out your monthly income
Include all income, but you want to strive to get to a place where you don’t have to rely on outside income (child support, government assistance, etc.)
- Figure out your monthly expenses
Write down everything you spend each month. This might seem tedious, but it will be very helpful and get easier as you do it. I used a simple notebook and on each page wrote the month with 2 columns: income and expenses. Then I wrote down all the money coming in and going out.
Spend Less Than You Make
In other words, live within your means. Don’t spend more than you make.
- Don’t compare your life with others. Be the best mom you can be.
- Don’t go into debt trying to live a lifestyle beyond your income. Your kids won’t remember the stuff they had but they will remember the loving care you gave them.
- Save money for emergencies (at least 3-6 months expenses). You never know when you will need extra cash (like an unexpected car repair or medical bill).
Understand needs vs. wants.
Your basic needs are:
Your goal should be to find a way to make sure all of your needs are covered and put away any extra into an emergency fund or savings account.
Apply for Assistance
If you are a new single mom and you are struggling to get on your feet, don’t be ashamed of getting assistance wherever you can, but make it a goal to work toward getting on your own feet and then paying it forward.
Don’t stay there, move forward.
Find a Way to Make More Money
The best thing you can do for yourself financially is to find a way to make more money.
- ask for a raise
- hunt for a new, better job
- find a side hustle
- find seasonal or occasional work
- sell items you own
After I became a single mom, I took every extra job I could find. Here’s what I did:
- posted on Facebook and found a family that hired me to babysit occasionally
- worked in our church nursery
- found side gigs through Upwork
- house-sat for friends
Whenever there was an opportunity for extra cash, I took it.
Related: Easy Side-Hustles for Single Moms
Find a Way to Save Money
An easy way to save money is by cutting expenses.
- move to a cheaper place or location if possible
- sell items you don’t need
- cancel any subscriptions you don’t use
- swap babysitting with a friend for free
- trade/share kids clothes with other friends or find or set up a clothing swap
- meal plan and eat at home
- take 24 hours (or longer) before you make a large purchase
Related: Things we quit buying to save money
Related: Meal planning made easy
Related: How to save money on kids
Get out and Stay out of Debt
As a single mom, you need to think about yourself and your kids’ future. A big obstacle to this is staying in debt.
If you have debt:
- Make a plan to pay it all off as soon as possible
- Don’t get into debt again
Once you’re out of debt, start saving for more important things (for emergencies, retirement, college for your kids).
Build an Emergency Fund
You absolutely need to work toward saving an emergency fund for unplanned expenses, like a job loss, car repair, or medical expenses.
Having an emergency fund will also help you stay out of debt, as you won’t need to get a loan or use a credit card when something unexpected happens.
Related: How to Build an Emergency Fund
Make a Plan for Your Kids
Don’t forget to make a long-term plan for your kids. In case of an emergency, you need to have life insurance and a will.
What if something happens to you? Who will care for your children? Where will the money come from to help them until they are adults?
Life insurance is vital, especially if you have small children and no other income other than your own.
Invest in Yourself
Finally, in addition to planning for your children’s future, you need to plan for your own. Make sure you max out any 401K plan with your job and your retirement fund (I recommend a Roth IRA).
Here are 2 of my favorite books about managing money:
And, if you want to help your kids grow up to make smart money choices, this is a great book:
I know how scary it can feel when you first become a single mom, especially if you were not previously working full-time and had a great income. Don’t panic. You can do this! Start by making a budget and follow these other financial survival tips for single mom success! Do you have any other tips? What worries you the most?